My knee-jerk response when I hear people like Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) claim that there is a “War on Whites” is to tell him to shut the fuck up. But, on second thought, it might be best if he keeps running his mouth, as his comments illustrate a common belief among many in the privileged class, which is that their privileges are in danger. And, that thought terrifies them.
This same belief can be seen in males who claim a “war on men,” or evangelicals railing against a “war on religion,” or homophobes scared of a “war on traditional marriage” or even one-percenters spouting about a “war on wealth.” It’s all nonsense, and it all comes from the same place. These are all classes of people who have gotten comfortable with their position and don’t want to see anything change the status quo. It’s good to be a rich, straight, Christian, white male, and they will fight to make sure it stays that way.
Now, the disclaimer: I am a straight, white male. And, while I am neither Christian or rich, I come from a churchgoing upper-middle class family, which is almost as good (at least in the minds of those claiming the world is suddenly turning against them). I have seen and experienced the privilege that comes with being all of those things. I have found employment fairly easily, and have not had to worry whether I’m being paid as much as others doing the same work. I can walk down the street without being harassed for my gender or race. I married my wife without fear of protest or condemnation to hell. I have not been called a terrorist when I grow facial hair or because of who I choose to pray to (or if I choose to pray at all). When people like Brooks think about “real Americans,” it is people who look a lot like me that they are talking about. But, where Brooks sees entitlement, as if he has done something to earn the privilege he has received, I see injustice and hypocrisy.
Of course, Brooks does not admit to thinking that whites deserve the benefits they have received (or even that they have received any benefits at all). On the contrary, Brooks says:
I’m one of those who does not believe in racism and I believe everyone should be treated equally as American citizens.
While I’m sure Brooks thought this was a very noble statement, it is actually both ignorant and dishonest. Racism is real, whether Brooks believes in it or not, just like evolution or climate change. What Brooks really means when he says that is, “I’m not a racist,” just like his comments that everyone should be treated equally. But, that part is bullshit, too. Brooks does not want everyone to be treated equally. What he wants is for people to be treated the way he is used to them being treated. That means privilege for whites and scraps for the rest. He may say he wants a level playing field, but what he really wants is the current tilted field where whites are at the top and everyone else is at the bottom, looking up at them, and struggling to climb the hill.
Brooks continues his attempts to pretend that all Americans are the same:
“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic American, an Asian American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs,” he said.
But, Brooks forgets one very important point: whites (and specifically white men) are hurt much less than anyone else. But, to Brooks, if he gets a splinter in his finger, it is no different from a woman or minority getting her legs blown off. All injury is the same in Brooks’ view. And, Brooks is especially sneaky by making this claim as part of an argument against immigration, a position that is inherently based on maintaining white dominance, or as some call it, avoiding “ethnic replacement.” But, as usual, someone else has made this point better than I can, in this case, Mychal Denzel Smith at the Nation:
It’s true, we’re all hurt by falling wages and lost jobs (except black Americans can’t even catch a break when there’s an increase in jobs). It’s also true, however, that that has nothing to do with immigration. But it’s Brooks’s assertion that a “racial issue” is an “emotional” rather than “thoughtful issue” I most take umbrage with.
It’s the type of language used to dismiss the real-world concerns of those of us who live on the oppressed side of racism in America. Our issues aren’t considered serious intellectual questions but emotional reactions that are to be dealt with personally. But any discussion of jobs and wages that doesn’t consider race (or gender) is intellectually dishonest. To pretend there are not groups of people who are disproportionately disadvantaged under our current economic model and that our ongoing legacy of racism and white supremacy are not contributing factors means you are not actually looking for solutions. You’re turning the same blind eye that has allowed the suffering in the first place.
There is no “War on Whites,” just like there is no war on religion, men, rich people, or straight people. However, there is a fight for equality—real equality—and that is a fight that Brooks is scared to lose. But, at least for now, he has nothing to fear. If there really was a “War on Whites,” (and again, there most certainly is not), whites would be winning handily. Don’t believe me? Just look at the makeup of our government, or the Fortune 500, or our jails, or our neighborhoods. White people are doing just fine. What Brooks is doing is pandering to the fears of people who are scared to lose their place at the top of the heap, a place they have done nothing to earn. But, paranoia is strong, and it can be a powerful motivator at election time, more powerful than reality. It’s still bullshit.